Operatic trainspotting

My belated thoughts on Opera Australia’s Sydney 2009 Season.

  1. Madama Butterfly
    23 performances, Summer Season; Cheryl Barker does the first 6 and the final 4; Antoinette Halloran does the middle 13.  (My series is in the middle section).
  2. Cav & Pag
    10 performances, Summer Season; Dennis O’Neill and Jonathan Summers go head to head in both; otherwise strongly cast.
  3. The Magic Flute
    18 performances, Summer Season; cast changes 14/2 (Goodwin/Choo/Tamino),and for last 2 performances, Pamina and Pappageno, Kwon and Moran replace Matthews and Fyfe; this is a visually beguiling production (Legs on the Wall really make a contribution).  Not at present in my series but I hope to go.
  4. Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
    7 performances, end of summer season; OA publicity touts “the imposing John Wegner,” which certainly can’t be a reference to his height; this is probably the pick for the cognoscenti in the summer season, though omitted from my series.
  5. Werther
    6 performances only towards the end of the Summer season.  A revival – I can’t remember how long ago it was last on but at a rough guess, 10 years ago.  Somehow this opera is twinned in my mind with Eugene Onegin.  This will be Pamela Helen Stephen’s opportunity to convince me.
  6. “Baroque Masterpieces”
    7 performances early in the winter season; Antony Walker conducts his own early music band, Orchestra of the Antipodes.  In 2004, Dido and Aeneas was mounted with Monteverdi’s Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, which was visually an inventive production but rather short measure for an evening’s entertainment. This time the Purcell may well be the curtain raiser to Handel’s Acis and Galatea.
    I’m not as enthusiastic as some about Yvonne Kenny’s Dido, which is being pushed as a selling point, though the tessitura may be more suitable to YK at this stage of her vocal development than many of her more recent roles here and she is of course a fine artist. 
    OA rather cheekily counts this half of a program as one of its 5 new productions – and it is the only new production in the Sydney summer season (Sondheim’s A Little Night Music premieres in Melbourne in the Autumn season).
  7. Aida
    20 performances, Winter Season; main cast change, half way through after 8/8; Barry Ryan a surprise mid-season casting for Amonasro (isn’t Ryan a tenor?); David Parkin of Oz Operatunity gets a gig as the King.  The only Verdi all year.
  8. Manon Lescault
    8 performances, middle of winter season; features a very big mirror and Opera Australia A-Grade cast including chook-magnet Teddy T-R and Cheryl Barker; not in my series.
  9. Fidelio
    10 performances, winter; Lisa Gasteen returns in title role; conventional production with sumptuous coup de theatre. Conal Coad (Rocco) has been described by Sarah Noble as “apparently ageless.” In my opinion this is true, but in the reverse of the way I suspect intended by Sarah. Coad looks his age now but has been looking this age since he was a lot younger (I first saw him in La Gazza Ladra at the UNSW Opera when it still existed; I have also seen him over the years at WA Opera and, in Billy Budd, at Covent Garden). Coad counts in my book as an Opera Australia “A” Grade singer in his category.
  10. I Capuletti e i Montecchi
    (The Capulets and the Montagues, ie, R&J)
    7 performances, August-September (equivalent spot to this year’s Lucia) – Bonynge-bel canto-Matthews (I mean Emma but afterwards, in the travesto role of Romeo, Dominica) vehicle; Bellini and rarety for Oz; not in my series
  11. The Mikado
    25 performances, winter; exception to OA’s “Life (ie, not the voices) Amplified” slogan; see my grouch expressed before about the treatment of my subscription series; another aspect of that is the inclusion of musicals/operetta. When I first subscribed. the series was restricted to the higher-grade fare.  Mik is a poor substitute for either the Capulets or Manon L, the 2 winter-season operas which are not included.
  12. Così fan tutte
    14 performances, end of winter season; can Durkin play a non-crazy part?
  13. Peter Grimes
    6 performances, end of winter; Armfield/Hickox new production; casting strong at the top and well supported through the ensemble; newest work programmed though I would say the Shostakovich is more challenging.

Though Melbourne gets only one totally new production (A Little Night Music), OA makes the point that the entire Melbourne season is new to Melbourne.  This may well prompt the retort from Melbourne complainers that this is not such an astounding coup, given the limited fare in Melbourne over recent years.

You can work out which are the proposed money spinners and why for yourself.

Meanwhile, Fiona Janes‘ criticism of the company has topically made a splash. This sort of thing is a perennial issue because there is never enough work to sustain operatic singers in Australia, and also because there is definitely an element of both subjective preference and cliqueyness [sp?] in casting decisions, or at least an inevitable opportunity for suspicion and complaint.

The person making the complaint is always accused of sour grapes which is self-fulfilling in the public eye since artists usually only become so bold as to make a complaint when their relationship with the company has reached rupture-point. At least, this is what occurred to me when, wondering why we had not seen any new productions from Elijah Moshinsky for some time, I unearthed from 1999 what proved to be his parting shot and the traditional fixed-smile response from Adrian Collette.

2 Responses to “Operatic trainspotting”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Barry Ryan used to be a tenor but has changed teams (so to speak) somewhere along the line. I can see Rachelle turning Fiordiligi into a crazy part. I meant ageless in much the same sense as you. I’d be irritated by Mikado in a subscription too.

  2. elijah Says:

    Barred from my own company by trying to be objective. Off to the Zimbabwe Lyric Opera for openness.

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